In Search Of The Perfect Chicken

Some people say the pursuit is half the fun. I say, game on!

Did Someone Say Chicken! - Image by Terry Johnston

Ah, the perfect roast chicken. Why does this have to be so hard? I know they say nothing good is ever easy, but, why can’t it be. Cooking the perfect bird is an elusive goal. Especially, since the definition varies from eater to eater.

For instance, I like my roast chicken cooked so the skin is crisp and a little salty. It doesn’t matter what other spices grace the outside of the bird, but, I want a touch of saltiness to it. I want the meat to be moist and juicy. I think most of us can agree on that. And, lastly, my ideal bird has an overall “full” flavor. What I mean by that, is when you’re eating it, you know that it’s chicken and not possibly some other meat that all of the flavor has been bred out of (like most of today’s pork).

That’s not asking to much, is it? I think not.

At this point we’ve all read through enough recipes that lay out a myriad of ways to accomplish these goals. I won’t go through the exercise of reciting them for you. We’ve heard them all before and we would be here all day. Suffice it to say there are as many methods as there are cooks.

My quest is simple. Allow me to break it down in terms anyone can understand. I want to turn this…

Chicken Before The Roast

Into this…

The Perfect Roast Chicken

It doesn’t get any more basic than that. And, I have finally achieved a modicum of success!

It’s summer so my preferred cooking venue is the great outdoors (that means grill). I’m usually either employing the beer can method or trying to jostle a variety of parts around the grate making certain to not over or undercook any. Usually this has very mixed results.

The beer can chickens are consistently consistent. Cooked through nicely, never browned all that uniformly and usually a little roughed up coming off the can. The nice thing about that cooking style, is you could down 20 or so beers (I think that’s why it’s called beer can chicken) and have the same end result. Once the bird in on, well, it’s pretty much autopilot.

As for cooking parts, well, you don’t need an overactive imagination to know how that turns out. You really have to pay attention, that obviously means no running to join the party or playing a game of bags. Some parts end up pretty good and others, well, less than pretty good.

Today I am turning my attention to the most underutilized of all my of BBQ toys. The noble rotisserie. If the beer can is the lazy mans way to cook, the rotisserie runs a very close second. There’s a little more monitoring required, but, you don’t really have to be fully engaged. You just need to know how to operate the burner controls. That I can do.

Here’s How To Do It

1 whole roasting chicken (3-5 lbs.)
2 quarts cold water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 + 2 tbsp. cup kosher salt
Fresh rosemary stalks
1 small onion, halved
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
Olive oil
fresh ground pepper

In a large bowl combine the water, sugar and kosher salt. Stir until completely dissolved. Clean out the chicken. Place in a large Ziploc bag. Pour brine into bag and seal. I brined my chicken for about 4 hours.

Prepare your grill for rotisserie cooking.

Remove chicken from bag and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Pat dry. Fasten your chicken to the spit. Rub the outside with olive oil. Stuff the rosemary, garlic and onion inside the chicken cavity. Tie back the legs and pin the wings so they’re not flopping around during cooking. You may want to pin the cavity shut loosely so your stuffing doesn’t fall out when it’s rotating. Sprinkle with some fresh ground pepper.

Place rotisserie on the grill and start. I have a three burner (front to back) grill. I turn my front and back burners on medium and leave the center burner in the off position. Let it cook. It should take about an hour and fifteen minutes depending on the size of the bird. You’ll need an instant read to know when it’s really done. Internal white meat temp should be 165, dark 185. Some people like it cooked a little less, that’s up to you. I’m not a fan of bloody poultry, but that’s just me.

Let’s have another look at the finished product shall we.

A Great Roasted Chicken

I’m proud of my bird!

A few quick notes. I usually brine anyway, so not a big deal. But, with the dry heat of the BBQ, it really makes a big difference here. The addition of the herbs and veggies stuffed in the cavity gave it a very hearty, earthy flavor. And, the length of my brining time meant the skin had it’s saltiness without adding any extra. I’m always a little back and forth on salting after brining. If it’s not brined long enough, you almost have to add a little extra. But, it can be a risky proposition.

Now get out there, dig through our BBQ parts storage area and find that rotisserie. Get all of the accumulated crud off of it and put it to use.

As usual, this being a cookbook site. Here’s a few books with some other ideas for cooking a perfect bird.

The Big Book of Chicken: Over 275 Exciting Ways to Cook Chicken
The Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook: Home-Made Meals with Store-Bought Convenience
The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Chicken

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